The first ever dedicated walk-through COVID-19 testing sites in Cheshire and Merseyside are to be deployed in Sefton.
The semi-permanent sites, known as local testing sites (LTS), are being created in both Bootle and Southport, with the first of these set to go live this Friday 31 July in Bootle.
LTS are designed to supplement existing testing routes such as regional and mobile testing units.
They are the first to offer bespoke walk-through appointments; to improve access for the whole community, especially those who do not have access to a car or should not be using public transport because they have symptoms.
Unlike mobile testing units, which are often deployed for around four days, the LTS will be open for several months to ensure that accessible testing is continually available to people within their communities.
Each LTS will have between four and eight testing bays which can each test up to three people an hour.
The sites are being set-up at Southport and Bootle town halls, and users will be asked to self-swab when attending. The LTS will operate by appointment only which can be booked at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
It has also been announced mobile coronavirus testing units are scheduled to be at locations across Sefton every day in August.
Confirmation of August dates for the sites, which are supported by Sefton Council, NHS Southport and Formby CCG and NHS South Sefton CCG, follows on from a timetable that saw units deployed across Sefton every day in July.
Tests at mobile centres are available for anyone but they need to have made an appointment first at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
Leader of Sefton Council, Cllr Ian Maher, said: “We have been working very closely with colleagues in the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside and the Department for Health and Social Care to ensure that we have the most accessible testing facilities for the people of Sefton, when and where they need them.
“I am delighted that we have been able to secure the first ever LTS facilities in Cheshire and Merseyside and that people will have even greater access to testing should people feel unwell.
“We have a fairly unique borough, which is both long and narrow, so being able to secure an LTS for both Southport and Bootle is a really good result. We will continue to work closely to ensure that all of the testing availability is used in the best possible way to help keep Sefton safe as we look to support the recovery of our area and the local economy.”
Regional testing director for Cheshire and Merseyside, Terry Whalley, said: “This additional capacity is great for Sefton and the whole of Cheshire and Merseyside.
“Having two semi-permanent local testing sites in Sefton means that we will be able to use other testing facilities more flexibly and be able to deploy them in a more targeted way in the future. This will help the director of public health, and other professionals have a greater say in how testing is used and deployed locally.
“Having this extra capacity, more permanently, means that we can respond and react in a much more targeted way with other testing resources, should we see local outbreaks or other urgent needs. Such decisions can now be made in the knowledge that there are testing sites in both Bootle and Southport to rely on day to day.
“We will carefully study the use of these new sites in Sefton as we look to roll out further testing capability across Cheshire and Merseyside in our bid to continue protecting lives and livelihoods.”
Fiona Taylor, chief officer at NHS South Sefton and NHS Southport and Formby CCGs said: “Although coronavirus often has more serious consequences for older people and those with existing health conditions, please remember that people of any age can catch and pass on the virus to friends and loved ones without knowing it. It can take several days for symptoms to appear, so that is why it is so important to wear a face covering, keep washing your hands and maintain social distancing to reduce the risk of spreading this serious illness throughout your community.
“As soon as you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms, you, and anyone you live with should self-isolate, and you should arrange a test as soon as possible. The Government’s NHS Test and Trace service will call you in a day or two with your results and explain what needs to happen next. We also strongly urge anyone who has been contacted through Test and Trace to respond and share information about their recent interactions.”
Cllr Maher added: “Recently, the Government handed councils the powers to impose local restrictions in the event of a spike in coronavirus cases but we see the use of those powers in Sefton very much as a last resort.
“If people of all ages across the borough act responsibility, follow the guidelines on handwashing, distancing and face coverings and respond quickly if they suspect they have symptoms of the virus or are contacted by the Test and Trace service, there should be no need for restrictions to be reintroduced.”
More information on visiting a local testing site is available in this YouTube video.
In addition to local testing sites, mobile testing units will be at Litherland and Southport on Thursday 30 and Friday 31 July and are scheduled to take place throughout August as well.
Information provided by South Sefton CCG